Six suspected members of a local motorcycle gang are now in jail, and are alleged to have ties to hate groups.
Investigators said the recent arrests stemmed from a lengthy investigation into the Iron Cross Motorcycle Club, an organization that operated out of a home on 66 E. Jones St. in Newnan.
In 2014, investigators from the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office began making a concentrated effort into combating street gangs, hate groups, anti-government organizations and all outlaw motorcycle clubs, also known as “1 percenters.”
The name derives from the idea that 99 percent of motorcycle clubs are law-abiding, while “1-percenters” don’t consider themselves subject to the law.
After incidents linking violence and drug activity to the Iron Cross MC, investigators began putting together a file on the group – gathering information from informants and victims of the gang’s enterprises.
Investigators discovered the motorcycle club was affiliated with the Outlaws MC – a national motorcycle gang, and the Knights of Solomon, a regional, smaller motorcycle gang, according to Chief Deputy James Yarbrough with the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office.
After an incident last fall, authorities were able to directly tie the group to criminal activity.
In November 2016, two women were traveling along U.S. Hwy. 29 into Newnan when they were followed by a group comprised of Iron Cross and Knights of Solomon members.
When one biker lost control of his bike and crashed, gang members blamed the driver of the car and began pursuing it in a chase across the eastern part of the county, Yarbrough said.
At one point during the chase, a biker reportedly pointed a firearm at the occupants inside the car and shot at least one round in their direction.
The chase ended after the bikers were intercepted by deputies near the intersection of Bullsboro Drive and Ga. Hwy. 154. A handgun was recovered at the scene, Yarbrough said.
After the chase, Lloyd Jefferson Harris, 28, was arrested and charged with discharging a weapon near a public highway, pointing a gun at another, and reckless conduct.
The investigation into the group escalated, resulting in the search of its clubhouse on E. Jones Street in March.
The house was allegedly being run and managed under the name of a deceased Iron Cross member, and was serving as an illegal alcohol establishment for those in the biker culture.
Inside, investigators reportedly recovered two truckloads of evidence connecting the bike group to gang culture, hate groups and other “1-percenters” across the state and nationwide – including membership documents and oaths.
Other symbols synonymous with hate groups were also found, including swastikas on architecture, graffiti and pictures commonly associated with hate groups and white supremacists, Yarbrough said.
The property owner told investigators he was not aware of the activities occurring on his property and promptly moved to have them evicted within 24 hours of the search.
The raid on the Iron Cross clubhouse occurred just before the much-publicized probation compliance check at Hoops Sports Bar in early summer that drew criticism for law enforcement allegedly targeting a primarily African-American establishment.
According to Sgt. Ryan Foles, the case against the Iron Cross MC should dispel any rumors about the sheriff’s office only focusing on minority groups.
"The Coweta County Sheriff’s Office has never allowed race to be a component as to who they investigate for criminal street gang activity,” Foles said.
“There was lot of rhetoric after the Hoops incident about being racist, but the raiding of the Iron Cross clubhouse was before Hoops,” he said. “However, we couldn’t disclose that information at the time due to the sensitive nature of the investigation.
On Sept. 5, six members of the organization were indicted by Coweta County Superior Court.
Along with Lloyd Jefferson Harris, suspected members Kenneth Hamrick Campbell Jr., Stephen Maxwell Kemp, Thomas Joseph Lewandowski, Ashley Morgan Hartfree, and Ricky James Hartfree were all charged with being in violation of the Georgia Street Gang and Terrorism Act.
If convicted, Harris could face a 140-year sentence simply on the gang charges, investigators said.
Five of the six are currently being held at the Coweta County Jail without bail. Ashley Hartfree has been released on $11,200 bond.
Attempts to contact representatives from the Iron Cross on Wednesday were unsuccessful.
Clay Neely: email@example.com, @clayneely